The neighborhood where my students come from can be full of negativity. My students need to learn how to support each other and accept the mistakes that come with the natural process of learning. Synergy is a strategy that is a core element of my blended model; it defines and reinforces the behaviors that successful teams use to work together to overcome a problem. Synergy has four basic expectations: 1) Push each other's thinking; 2) Share the load; 3) Use Accountable Talk; and 4) Move with speed. I use these expectations in a quick evaluation of each group every time we do group work, and the "winning group" receives a small prize, which reinforces my academic and social expectations and incentivizes friendly competition.
Communicating and collaborating with both colleagues and students' families is crucial in a blended environment. This is especially true if a teacher is doing something that looks very different from other teachers at his school. Check out how Stephen communicates and collaborates with both his colleagues at school and his students' families and how his methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.
Mad Minute is a fast-paced math fact practice strategy that our class does every day as our "Do Now." My students get one minute to finish as many problems as they can, working towards getting the highest number of consecutive problems correct. As my students work on Mad Minute more and more, they improve their accuracy and speed. We also focus on improvement rather than overall score, celebrating students who get higher scores towards the end of the week.
I group my students into three proficiency groups - Mild, Medium, and Spicy. This is a system of general differentiation that allows me to easily assign practice or even homework. Students know their level and know that the assigned practice is likely best for them. Their level is also assigned to them based on various factors, including benchmark assessments, formative assessments, and informal observations made in class on a daily basis. I encourage my students to challenge themselves to try a "spicier" level when they're ready. This gives students the flexibility to try harder material and excel at an appropriate and personalized pace.